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43-year-old man charged with sexually exploiting teen girl in Utah County

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Handcuffs hang from a bench in the pre-booking area of the Utah County Jail, where suicides are increasing.

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LEHI — A Saratoga Springs man who attempted to rent an apartment with a teen girl he was allegedly having an illegal relationship with has been charged.

Alex Zuniga-Ramirez, 43, was charged Wednesday in 4th District Court with two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony; two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16-year-old, and unlawful sexual activity with a minor, both third-degree felonies.

Zuniga was living with and had been engaging in sexual activity with a girl since at least June when the girl was 15, according to charging documents.

On Jan. 7, Zuniga and the girl attempted to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Lehi, the charges state, but the apartment manager declined to rent to the two and called police after they left.

“(She) stated that it was odd for an older man and a younger girl to rent a one-bedroom apartment,” according to the charges.

Using paperwork they had already filled out, police identified Zuniga and determined he lived in Saratoga Springs. Detectives also contacted the girl’s biological mother, who lives in Nevada. The mother said she knew her daughter was with Zuniga but had no idea he was 43, according to the charges.

When questioned by police, Zuniga said the girl had run away from home and asked if she could stay with him, and that the two were “dating,” the charges state.

Investigators also searched Zuniga’s phone and found 40 explicit pictures and videos of the girl, according to the charges.

Prosecutors have requested Zuniga be held without bail.